The two most hotly anticipated clashes in racing. On the same day. In the space of an hour. Buckle up, everyone- this might be the most exciting hour of our sport in 2019.
Match 1 takes place at Ascot. Altior, two time Champion Chaser, world record breaker, still boasting a perfect record of 19 out of 19.
Cyrname, yet to meet a horse of Altior’s calibre, but absolutely imperious over course and distance twice last season, so much so that he was controversially rated Altior’s superior by the BHA.
This is the moment of truth for them both. In terms of track and trip, both of those aspects surely benefit Cyrname more so than Altior, who, despite shaping for most of last season like he’d be benefitted by an increased distance, will be going three furlongs further than he ever has in his life.
Altior also jumped out to his left on numerous occasions in the Clarence House in January, and giving the fluency with which Cyrname popped round these fences in the Ascot Chase, Altior really can’t be affording to give away lengths at his fences this time.
That being said, Altior is Altior, though.
He just doesn’t lose.
This is the biggest test he’s ever faced, as he’s never come on terms which suit a top class rival as much as this looks to do for Cyrname- which is why this race is going to be so special. Altior is the one who will have to overcome adversity tomorrow.
He’s already a legend. A win though, potentially confirms him as the greatest since Arkle, possibly even all time. 20 in a row? Who knows?
If that wasn’t enough, the King Of Haydock, Bristol De Mai, faces a fresh challenger to his throne in the shape of the exuberant youngster Lostintranslation in the Betfair Chase.
Arguably, Twiston-Davies’ was the best British senior staying last year, backing up his impressive victory in last year’s renewal with a third in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, a track which he’d looked unsuited to in the past.
He’s four from four at the Merseyside venue and should be well suited by the ground. Ever single top class his opponent he’s faced here in the previous two years has been soundly dismissed.
Lostintranslation might just be a little bit special though- he looks to have a rare blend of speed and stamina and posted as sexy a round of jumping as you ever likely to see when winning first time up this season at Carlisle.
He was my ante post fancy for the Gold Cup this season- but he may face as stern as test here as he ever would do at Cheltenham. Like Altior, this is on his opponent’s terms- the question is, is he good enough to win anyway?
Potentially the biggest novice clash for the season so far, Laurina v Minella Indo, is the highlight in Ireland tomorrow. Heavyweight v heavyweight.
Settle down- Saturday is gonna be a good one.